Memoir and Life Writing Level 2 (Autumn 2023)


  • 7-9:30 PM GMT
  • Every other Sunday
  • August 27, Sep 10/24, Oct 8/22, Nov 5/19, Dec 3
  • Detailed and personal feedback on all writing
  • Limited to 14 people
  • Tea break midway
  • Tuition: £650



After a summer break from bi-weekly classes, Memoir and Life Writing Level II in the autumn of 2023 invites you to return to your work-in-progress to expand its breadth and depth.

At this stage in your writing, you have developed your narrative nonfiction skills to include sense of place, character development, narrative presence, language, and dialogue/monologue. You have curated a steady writing practice and understand your unique creative processes. Memoir and Life Writing Level II provides the same accountability, feedback, and fellowship that has contributed to your growth as a writer and focused you on telling your story. 

The focus in Memoir and Life Writing Level II will be on developing your individual voice, expanding your word count, and experimenting with structure to find the most satisfying narrative arc for your story. Voice is king in memoir: the aim is to help you relax into your own voice through exercises, workshops, and analysis of other voices.  We will read essays and book-length memoir and consider their voices, their structures, and their narrative arcs, amongst other topics, with the aim of enriching your own work.  We will also identify the most satisfying narrative arc in your work and locate weak scenes for repair with the aim of creating a well-balanced story. 

With this in mind, our reading includes books and essays with very different voices, structures, and narrative arcs. See below.

Memoir and Life Writing Level II provides the pace and space to process, reflect, experiment, and grow.  Lectures are focused on concrete memoir-related topics and skills you need to know. Discussions are based on assigned readings of books and essays. Workshops provide a warm and supportive place to share your work while giving and receiving vital peer feedback.  In-class exercises are also interspersed throughout each session to help you think about your topics and gain new writing skills. No matter your style, you will find a great writing community in this bi-weekly course. All of Kathryn’s courses are characterised by a warm sense of community and accountability, which keeps you comfortably supported and focused on your writing goals

Please contact with questions.


  • Read, discuss, and analyse diverse memoir
  • Continue expanding your narrative nonfiction skills
  • Experiment with different memoir form and texture
  • Find your distinctive writing voice, experiment with structure, find your arc
  • Enjoy the supportive structure of a global writing community



No matter your subject or style, you will find a great writing community in this bi-weekly course and learn how to write memoir. All of Kathryn’s courses are characterised by a warm sense of community and accountability, which keep you comfortably supported and focused on your writing goals. Each session you gather with your classmates and new friends, you will learn from each other while gaining a new set of friends who share your writing aspirations and growth mind-set.


Kathryn Aalto’s teaching philosophy is focused on encouraging a uniquely personal exploration of narrative nonfiction. At its core, she believes teaching is about responding to each student, whether they are an emerging writer or writing beyond the level of content mastery. She cultivates a mindful and supportive learning environment that fosters personal expression, critical thinking, and individual artistic growth in the literary arts.


Kathryn Aalto is a passionate practitioner and teacher of narrative nonfiction.  For more than twenty-five years, she has taught writing and literature courses at colleges and universities including Western Washington University, Everett Community College, and Plymouth University and has given guest lectures at Cambridge University, Vanderbilt University, Cornell University, and more. She has a global mentoring practice, guides students in a vibrant online writing school, and leads in-person retreats, courses, and workshops in the United States and United Kingdom. She is a judge for The Nature Chronicles Prize, an international bi-annual award for nature writing in the English language. She is represented by Peter McGuigan at Ultra Literary in New York City. As a public speaker, she has given hundreds of talks at distinguished speakers’ series and is represented by Chartwell Speakers in New York City. Kathryn endeavours to impart these varied experiences to her students.


Read more testimonials here.

“I have been making my living with journalistic texts for four years now. Tied to my desk due to the pandemic I decided it was time to take my writing to another level and enrolled in The Art of Narrative Nonfiction. Being skeptical of virtual courses at first, I was immediately drawn into the group by her professional and yet entertaining moderation of the weekly online gatherings. With an attractive mix of lecture, discussion, workshop and personal tutoring she enabled us to not only profit from her vast experience as a writer but also to open up our pieces to our peers from various cultural backgrounds. I’ll definitely be back for more.”

Johannes, Cologne, Germany

“Margaret Atwood said ‘If you really want to write, and you’re struggling to get started, you’re afraid of something.’ Kathryn fixes those nagging fears by showing writers what we have that is already good, and what we can do better tomorrow. It’s win-win, and she remakes a traditional “class” into such an enjoyable, productive journey. I’ve also been lucky enough to experience the awe-inspiring surroundings and warm community that form the bedrock of the Rural Writing Institute. It’s not often that you can genuinely say that one long weekend shifted the way you look at the world, but the effects are still with me in my reading and writing years later.”

Caroline, Aberdeen, Scotland

“After six months of working with Kathryn–which is a bit like entering the space of a handwritten letter, what with her sharp aesthetic sense, far-ranging intelligence, wit, and curiosity–I’ve made tangible progress on an unwieldy, long-form project I was struggling to articulate. I came to her Memoir and Life Writing class for accountability, and came away having experienced the kind of support, writing insight, and real feeling of friendship that can be difficult to find in a workshop environment. Kathryn fostered a warm, charming atmosphere in class (a real feat online), allowing for life-long connections to develop among our group of writers. She cares about the arc of her student’s writing lives–a form of attention that encourages artistic growth and positive risk-taking. She not only brought her years of writing and publishing experience to class and to our bi-monthly writing assignments (her personal feedback, often handwritten, is invaluable), she also brought her unique perspective. Writer-gardener-historians are, I think, particularly adept at imagining the possibilities for a piece, no matter your subject. Kathryn pushed me to dig deeper, moving my writing in new directions. No matter where one is in their writing life, working with Kathryn will be an experience of profound joy, insight, and artistic deepening.”

Veronica, Portland, Oregon